Advice for First-Time Delegates

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I mentioned in my last blog post that I have never been a delegate to Synod. Judging from that post, I’ll bet you can see why. But I do have an inkling of admiration for the Sheila Holmes and George Vander Weits and Thea Leunks of our denomination. God bless them, every one!

After my first blog post, I solicited some advice for first time delegates from a commentator and several-time delegate, Ron Donkersloot.  I repost it here so that they don’t get lost in the comment section AND to encourage other seasoned veterans to offer their advice as well.  

For first time delegates I would offer the following advice:

1) Be slow to speak. There is so much to learn in that first Synod experience that I think it makes good sense to observe much and speak little. One of the things that I enjoyed so much about the Synod experience was the eloquent use of language. Some of the people who speak there are wonderful speakers and it is a joy to hear language used so effectively. However, at each synod that I went to there were always a few individuals that felt like they needed to speak to every situation. Although everyone is patient in those settings it grew wearisome.

2) The study committee work is where much of your energy should be focused. Hopefully you are assigned to a committee which fits your gifts and abilities. I found that some of the great discussions that happened in these committee meetings were some of the most powerful experiences of Synod.

3) Be aware that we are a very diverse denomination. You will see evidence of it. Yes it is still predominantly a white male ecclesiastical event but there is much diversity in even that. I have been heartened to see some changes in this. Yet there is huge diversity in even the mainline CRC churches. The issues of women in office, homosexuality, children at the Lord's table, climate issues, and racial issues are seen in very different ways by the various classes of our denomination. At times last synod it seemed clear to me that there were some classes that made very clear decisions about who their delegates would be based on some of the issues that were going to be discussed. Many clearly were not interested in even considering the Belhar as a confessional document. In the end that held sway. The issue of climate change and the role of the CRC was also very controversial. It is difficult to see the diversity in action at times because there will be times when you can become very frustrated with some of the seemingly shortsighted opinions of some churches and delegates. Somehow we must all work together as the body of Christ. It is at Synod that one sees this play out in sometimes marvelous ways and at other times in hurtful ways.

4) Absorb as much of the experience as you can and then be prepared to share it with your classis when you get back. I don’t think that I did a particularly good job with that but nonetheless that is the advice I would give.

5) I am tempted to say go with an open mind but perhaps that is too broad. I just know that it is difficult for Synod to work effectively if everyone goes with their mind made up about all of the issues. We need to be able to be open to the leading of the spirit.

6) Make sure you take care of all of the travel details in time! It makes life so much easier for those that deal with all of the details. The synod staff are wonderful folk and always a joy to work with. Anything we can do to help them in doing their job would be good.

Blessings to all of the delegates!

Thanks Ron!

Now,

- If any of you have advice to share. 
- If any of you are first-time delegates this year with questions

Please write in.  The floor is now open for comments …

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Re:  #6, make sure you bring a travel iron!  Sounds silly, but you won't regret it!

One of the ways that I've been blessed by my limited Synod experience is just getting a sense of how big our denomination is and how much we are involved in. Comparatively, we're a small denomination, but we're involved in much.  I have also been touched by how centrally prayer can play a role in the deliberations.

I agree with almost everything in Ron's nicely written piece, but this made the hair on my neck stand up:

Many clearly were not interested in even considering the Belhar as a confessional document. In the end that held sway. The issue of climate change and the role of the CRC was also very controversial. It is difficult to see the diversity in action at times because there will be times when you can become very frustrated with some of the seemingly shortsighted opinions of some churches and delegates.

With all due respect, suggesting that someone who disagrees with you on things like the Belhar and climate change are therefore shoetsighted strikes me as a bit presumptuous.

 

Before you take yourself too serious,

lets not forget what our beloved Cabbage and Kings writer once  said at the opening of the Synod where he presided:

Everyone is entitlled to his own redicilous  opinion